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Groups join to sponsor community suicide prevention event

FERGUS FALLS, MINN. - Corinne Chilstrom, whose teen-age son died by suicide, will tell her family's story as the keynote speaker at the Depression and Suicide Prevention and Information Awareness event from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, October 12, in Fergus Falls.

Organizers say the program, which is open to the public and free of charge, is designed to educate the public about suicide and to encourage awareness of the mental health and suicide prevention resources available in the community.

Sponsors include Federated Church, Lake Region Healthcare, the Fergus Falls campus of Minnesota State Community and Technical College and the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ from the Ashley Endowment. Organizers also include parish nurses affiliated with Fergus Falls churches and representatives of Lakeland Mental Health Center, Fergus Falls Public Schools and Otter Tail County Human Services. The event will be in Legacy Hall on the M State campus.

From 6-7 p.m., local mental health and health care professionals will have information available at resource tables. Among the providers who will be present are Otter Tail County Human Services, Lake Region Healthcare, Lakeland Mental Health Center, Lutheran Social Services, A Place to Belong, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Productive Alternative Crisis Stabilization Unit, Mobile Crisis Teams for Adults and Children, Veterans Services, Stephen Ministry Program, PioneerLink, Lakeland Hospice and Homecare, Care2000, Angel of Hope Park, Children's Mental Health Local Advisory Council, New Dimensions and the YMCA.

Chilstrom will speak about "Understanding Suicide" from 7-8 p.m. Author of Andrew, You Died Too Soon, she is a native of Vermillion, S.D., and worked in nursing before earning a Master of Divinity degree from Luther Seminary. She served parishes in Minneapolis, Park Ridge, Ill., and Pelican Rapids.

In 2001 she earned the Outstanding Alumni Award from Mankato State University for her work on the issues of suicide and grief recovery with professionals, families and church groups. Her husband, the Rev. Herbert Chilstrom, served as first presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America from 1987-1995.

Following Chilstrom's presentation, there will be small group sessions beginning at 8 p.m. for families in grief, youth, church leaders and interested community members. Chilstrom will lead a session for family members and significant people in the lives of those who have died by suicide, "Left Behind: Families in Grief."

In one session, a community member will tell a personal story of a lifetime of depression.

Other sessions will include three led by staff members from Lakeland Mental Health Center. Beth Monke will lead a session for students, Denni Wilson will share information for parents on talking about suicide with their children and Kathleen Schara will provide a free and confidential depression screening. Individuals will have an opportunity to fill out a depression screening questionnaire and discuss their concerns in a confidential setting.

Local church groups are being encouraged to bring their confirmation and youth group participants in grades 8 and above.

According to statistics from Stephen Ministries, suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States but the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15-24. For every person who dies by suicide, between eight and 20 people attempt suicide without dying. Warning signs that people are thinking about suicide include statements about hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness, talk about suicide and a preoccupation with death.

For more information, contact Connie Seltz at (218) 736-7166 or